2000 Belgian Grand Prix
|Race 13 of 17 in the 2000 Formula One season|
|Date||27 August 2000|
|Official name||LVIII Foster's Belgian Grand Prix|
|Location||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot, Belgium|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
6.968 km (4.330 mi)
|Distance||44 laps, 306.592 km (190.507 mi)|
|Weather||Wet at start, drying, Air & track temperature; 15 °C (59 °F)|
|Time||1:53.803 on lap 30|
The 2000 Belgian Grand Prix (formally the LVIII Foster's Belgian Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held on 27 August 2000 at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot, Belgium. It was the thirteenth race of the 2000 Formula One season and the 58th Belgian Grand Prix. The race, contested over 44 laps, was won by McLaren driver Mika Häkkinen after starting from pole position. Michael Schumacher finished second in a Ferrari with Williams driver Ralf Schumacher third.
The race began behind the safety car, and once it returned to the pits Häkkinen built a lead over Jarno Trulli. As the track dried and his rivals made their own pit stops Häkkinen maintained his lead, until a spin on the thirteenth lap allowed Michael Schumacher to lead most of the race. By the 34th lap, Michael Schumacher's tyres began to degrade allowing Häkkinen to close the gap. On lap 41, Häkkinen overtook Michael Schumacher for the lead while lapping BAR driver Ricardo Zonta, which he maintained to win the race. Rubens Barrichello set the fastest lap in the other Ferrari, but was hampered by a poor qualifying performance and retired from an fuel pressure problem thirteen laps from the finish.
As a consequence of the race, Häkkinen extended his lead in the Drivers' Championship to six points over Michael Schumacher, with Coulthard a further seven behind. Barrichello's retirement meant that he slipped to twenty-five points behind Häkkinen. In the Constructors' Championship McLaren extended their lead to eight points over Ferrari, with four races of the season remaining.
The Grand Prix was contested by eleven teams, each of two drivers. The teams, also known as constructors, were McLaren, Ferrari, Jordan, Jaguar, Williams, Benetton, Prost, Sauber, Arrows, Minardi and BAR. Tyre supplier Bridgestone brought four different tyre types to the race: two dry compounds, the Soft and the Mediums and two wet-weather compounds, the Hard and the Softs. The wet-weather tyres were specifically introduced for the race weekend in response to prospective rival tyre supplier Michelin starting their tyre development program during the year, resulting in Bridgestone increasing their development rate to research their own advances.
Going into the race, McLaren driver Mika Häkkinen led the Drivers' Championship with 64 points, ahead of Michael Schumacher on 62 points and David Coulthard on 58. Rubens Barrichello was fourth with 49 points while Giancarlo Fisichella was fifth on 18 points. In the Constructors' Championship McLaren were leading with 112 points, one point ahead of their rivals Ferrari. Williams were third on 24 points, while Benetton with 18 and Jordan with 12 points contended for fourth place. McLaren and Ferrari had so far dominated the championship, winning the previous twelve races. Championship competitors Barrichello and Fisichella had gained second place podium finishes while Ralf Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen had achieved third place podium finishes.
Following the Hungarian Grand Prix on 13 August, five teams conducted mid-season testing at the Silverstone Circuit from August 15–17. McLaren test driver Olivier Panis was fastest on the first day, ahead of Frentzen. Williams test driver Bruno Junqueira's car was afflicted with a water leak, resulting in repairs which limited his team's testing time. Panis remained fastest on the second day. Jos Verstappen's Arrows car suffered an sensor failure, limiting his team's testing time as his car's floor had to be removed to install a new sensor. Panis was again fastest for the final day of testing. Ferrari opted to test with Michael Schumacher running at the Fiorano Circuit, performing tests on his car's suspension and tyres. He later moved to the Mugello Circuit with Barrichello performing engine and setup testing, while Ferrari's test driver Luca Badoer remained at Fiorano and undertook development work for new car components. Prost opted to test at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on August 17–18 with their driver Jean Alesi and Benetton undertook a five-day one car test at the Danielson Circuit, running their test driver Mark Webber to perform aerodynamic development on the first four days with Alexander Wurz concentrating on practice starts on the final day.
In September 1999, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) released a provisional calendar for the 2000 season which dropped the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps circuit from the Formula One World Championship. This was due to an ongoing dispute over Belgium tobacco advertising laws which threatened to cancel the race as several teams displayed tobacco sponsorship. The FIA had either the revival of the Dutch Grand Prix at the Circuit Park Zandvoort or the Portuguese Grand Prix at the Autódromo do Estoril as alternative venues should the Belgian Grand Prix have been cancelled. The dispute was resolved when the Belgian government excepted the race from the advertising laws and it was reinstated at the FIA World Council meeting in Paris on 6 October 1999.
Prior to the race, Panis announced that he was moving to BAR for the 2001 season. BAR's management had attempted to persuade McLaren team principal Ron Dennis to release Panis with immediate effect to replace Ricardo Zonta, although Dennis blocked the move, meaning Panis would continue to test for McLaren until the end of the year. Panis' contract was officially confirmed ten days before the race. Benetton announced Jenson Button would move from Williams to replace Wurz. Williams subsequently announced that Button was loaned out to Benetton and was still on contract with team. Williams, however, maintained the right to recall Button for the 2003 or 2004 season. Meanwhile, Mika Salo's management announced that he was moving to the newly formed Toyota team as part of their testing program for 2001 before joining their race team the following year. He subsequently announced that he enabled a performance clause allowing him to leave his current team Sauber at the end of the season.
Practice and qualifying
Four practice sessions were held before the Sunday race—two on Friday, and two on Saturday. The Friday morning and afternoon sessions each lasted an hour. The third and final practice sessions were held on Saturday morning and lasted 45 minutes. The Friday morning and afternoon practice sessions took place in dry conditions. Coulthard set the first session's fastest time with a lap of 1:53.398, eight-tenths of a second quicker than Michael Schumacher. Häkkinen finished with the third fastest time. Jarno Trulli, Barrichello and Jacques Villeneuve completed the next three positions. The two Benetton drivers were seventh and eighth, Wurz ahead of Fisichella. Both Williams cars of Ralf Schumacher and Button completed the top ten. Alesi's Prost was afflicted with an fuel pressure problem; this prevented him from setting an timed lap and he was slowest overall. In the second practice session, Coulthard remained fastest with his lap from the first session having suffered a slow rear puncture which prevented him from setting a faster lap time; Häkkinen set the second fastest time. Jaguar driver Johnny Herbert was running quicker—finishing third fastest—although he changed his strategy to check his car's balance, improving his performance. Villeneuve's performance improved by moving into fourth after changes to his car's set-up, while Michael Schumacher slipped to fifth. Wurz was sixth quickest. Jos Verstappen had been running quicker throughout the session and was seventh fastest. He was ahead of Fisichella, Barrichello and Trulli.
The weather remained dry for the Saturday morning practice sessions. Häkkinen set the fastest lap of the third session, a 1:51.043, quicker than his best on Friday. This put him immediately ahead of Frentzen, Trulli and Ralf Schumacher. Coulthard who was afflicted with an engine problem early in the session was fifth fastest, ahead of Button and Michael Schumacher. Alesi, Villeneuve and Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld completed the top ten positions. During the final practice session, Häkkinen was unable to improve his time although he remained fastest. Button was much happier with his car's handling and set the second fastest time. The Jordan drivers were third and fourth—Trulli ahead of Frentzen. Ralf Schumacher and Coulthard completed the top six ahead of qualifying. Amongst the slower runners, Marc Gené suffered a worrying moment when his Minardi car shed its engine cover, but was able to return to his garage.
Saturday's afternoon qualifying session lasted for an hour. Each driver was limited to twelve laps, with the grid order decided by the drivers' fastest laps. During this session, the 107% rule was in effect, which necessitated each driver set a time within 107% of the quickest lap to qualify for the race. The session was held in dry weather; the ambient temperature was 25 °C (77 °F) and the track temperature 30 °C (86 °F). Häkkinen clinched his fifth pole position of the season, his third at the circuit, with a time of 1:50.646. Although he was optimistic about his race prospects, he was worried that the start of his race would be squandered. Häkkinen was joined on the front row of the grid by Trulli, equalling his best qualifying performance of the season, achieved at the Monaco Grand Prix. Trulli was optimistic about his race prospects, because of the Jordan team's strong record at the circuit. Button qualified third and stated that he was happy with his starting position. Michael Schumacher secured fourth, nine-tenths of a second behind Häkkinen, setting a lap time which pushed Häkkinen's team-mate Coulthard to fifth. Coulthard encountered issues with grip and believed that he could have a set a faster lap time. Ralf Schumacher, Villeneuve, Frentzen, Herbert and Barrichello rounded out the top ten fastest drivers. Frentzen's best lap time was disqualified after Coulthard blocked him at the Bus Stop chicane which caused Frentzen to run onto the grass. Fisichella missed out on qualifying in the top ten by three-tenths of a second. Herbert's team-mate Eddie Irvine qualifed 12th after struggling to find grip in his car's tyres. He was ahead of Zonta, Heidfeld, Sauber's Pedro Diniz and Arrows driver Pedro de la Rosa. Alesi qualified 17th, despite spinning at the chicane which caused the yellow flag to be deployed. Salo took 18th, ahead of Wurz who suffered from engine problems. Verstappen and the two Minardi drivers qualified at the back of the grid, covering positions 20 to 22.
The drivers took to the track at 09:30 CEST (UTC+2) for a 30-minute warm-up session. It took place in wet weather conditions, which meant that lap times were slower than the previous days' practice and qualifying sessions. Häkkinen maintained his good performance setting a time of 2:03.392. Michael Schumacher was the second quickest driver. Button was third, two thousands of a second off Michael Schumacher's pace. Barrichello completed the top four, three-tenths of a second behind Häkkinen. The session was disrupted by an incident as Fisichella struck the barriers at turn 14; the accident required an suspension as marshals cleared the track of debris and Fisichella sustained a bruised left knee. He was also forced to start the race with his team's spare car. Later in the session, Villeneuve damaged his car's rear end in a crash and was able to continue.
The race started at 14:00 local time. The air and track temperature was at 15 °C (59 °F); forecasts expected cloud cover with no rainfall during the race. Standing water on the track, which was causing heavy spray and impairing visibility, meant that the race would start behind the safety car and all cars, except for Diniz, used wet tyres. Minardi's Gastón Mazzacane would start the race from the pit lane, as he changed into his team's spare car after his engine failed during the warm-up session. The race began behind the safety car, with no formation lap. During the safety car period Diniz spun off and was overtaken by de la Rosa. De la Rosa was immediately issued with a 10-second stop-go penalty which he served on lap 13. The safety car came into the pits after one lap, and the cars were allowed to overtake after crossing the start/finish line. Häkkinen maintained his lead going into the first corner followed by Trulli, Button, Michael Schumacher and Coulthard. Herbert ran wide at the first turn and lost 9th place to Barrichello. At the end of the first racing lap, Diniz dropped to the rear of the field. On lap 3, de la Rosa lost 16th position after running wide at turn 18, losing two positions to Alesi and Verstappen.
Häkkinen began to immediately pull away from Trulli. Button attempted to pass Trulli on the 4th lap although he ended up running wide and lost third position to Michael Schumacher. Alesi was the first driver to pit for dry tyres on the same lap. By the start of the 5th lap, Häkkinen had opened his lead over Trulli to 10 seconds, ahead of Michael Schumacher, Button and Coulthard. Michael Schumacher took second place when he passed Trulli on the same lap. Button then immediately attempted to pass Trulli although he made contact with the Jordan driver. Trulli was sent into a spin and became the first retirement of the race. Button then lost two positions to Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher. On the next lap, Michael Schumacher and Ralf Schumacher were the first of the front runners to pit, as Alesi started to set lap times faster than the leaders. Häkkinen pitted from the lead on lap 7 followed by Button and re-emerged ahead of Coulthard to retain the lead. Coulthard made his pit stop on the following lap and re-emerged in 9th position.
All of the drivers had taken their pit stops by the end of lap 9. The race order was Häkkinen, Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, Alesi, Button, Villeneuve, Barrichello, Frentzen, Coulthard, Diniz, Herbert, Irvine, Zonta, Salo, Gené, Verstappen, de la Rosa, Heidfeld, Wurz and Mazzacane. On the same lap, Barrichello overtook Frentzen for seventh, whilst Verstappen and Fisichella collided after the Arrows driver attempted to pass the slowing Benetton at the chicane. Verstappen sustained front wing damage, and Fisichella later retired with an electrical problem. By lap 13, Michael Schumacher had closed the gap to Häkkinen after setting consecutive fastest laps. Häkkinen spun at turn 15, allowing Michael Schumacher to take the lead. Heidfeld became the race's third retirement when his car developed a mechanical issue on the same lap.
Alesi became the first front runner to make a scheduled pit stop on lap 18 and rejoined in 10th. Over the next two laps, Salo passed Irvine for 12th, whilst Barrichello pitted from 6th and came out in 11th. Michael Schumacher had opened his lead to 11 seconds over Häkkinen by lap 22. Ralf Schumacher was a further 10 seconds behind Häkkinen and was maintaining a 6-second gap from team-mate Button. Michael Schumacher pitted on the same lap, and emerged back in 3rd. On lap 23, Barrichello passed Herbert for 9th. Over the next two laps, both Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher pitted. Button pitted from 4th on lap 26, and Häkkinen one lap later. Button dropped to 8th position, and Häkkinen came out behind Michael Schumacher. Frentzen and Coulthard made their pit stops together on lap 28, and Coulthard emerged ahead of Frentzen. On the same lap, Barrichello passed Alesi to take 6th. Barrichello then started to set consecutive fastest laps before his second pit stop on lap 31. He set the fastest lap of the race in the process, a 1:53.803 on lap 30. However, Barrichello's car ran out of fuel and was pushed by marshals to his garage. He retired along with Alesi who had suffered a similar problem. Button inherited fourth place due to Barrichello's retirement. Salo was the final scheduled driver to make a pit stop, on lap 33.
At the conclusion of lap 34, with the scheduled pit stops completed, the running order was Michael Schumacher, Häkkinen, Ralf Schumacher, Button, Coulthard, Frentzen, Villeneuve, Herbert, Salo, Irvine, Diniz, Zonta, Wurz, Gene, Verstappen, de la Rosa and Mazzacane. On the same lap, Michael Schumacher began to suffer from tyre degradation which allowed Häkkinen to close the gap. Further back, Coulthard, who was running 5th, passed Button to take 4th on lap 37. Häkkinen attempted to pass Michael Schumacher for the lead on the 40th lap, on the approach to Les Combes after drafting behind him up the straight, but Schumacher drove right as a blocking manoeuvre, and defended his position. Both drivers made contact with Häkkinen suffering minor damage to his front wing and was forced to lift off the throttle. On the following lap, while both leading drivers were lapping Zonta, Häkkinen moved to the inside lane to pass Michael Schumacher for the lead. Häkkinen crossed the line on lap 44 to win the race in a time of 1'28:14.494, at an average speed of 129.535 miles per hour (208.466 km/h). Michael Schumacher finished second 1.1 seconds behind, ahead of Ralf Schumacher in third, Coulthard in fourth, Button in fifth and Frentzen rounded out the points scoring positions in sixth. Villeneuve, Herbert, Salo, Irvine and Diniz filled the next five positions. Zonta, Wurz, Gené and Verstappen finished one lap behind the leader, with de la Rosa and Mazzacane the last of the classified finishers.
The top three drivers appeared on the podium to collect their trophies and in the subsequent press conference. Häkkinen was delighted with his race victory, saying, "This was an incredible win. It was a very difficult and unusual situation including my spin which of course was not planned. The kerbs here are very slippery and once you go over one there is not much you can do. I was lucky to keep going and I was able to chase Michael. But the car got better and better." Häkkinen added that he wanted to review his overtaking manoeuvre to find whether Michael Schumacher performed an illegal move. After the race, Michael Schumacher admitted that despite improvements to his car he was unable to match Häkkinen's overall pace. He added that he was driving through wet sections of the track to lower his tyre temperatures and stated that was happy to run behind backmarkers for assistance.
Ralf Schumacher said, "I'm more than happy, we have been strong here the whole weekend and my car behaved perfectly. I had a little moment of worry about six laps from the end when the throttle didn't seem to pick up properly and I thought the engine was going to stop, but it came back and all was well." He added that his team was confident of securing third in the Constructors' Championship; although he could not match Häkkinen's pace he praised the team for his car's set-up. Coulthard was discontented by finishing in fourth position as he believed his team's decision to call him into the pit lane later than his competitors cost him a possible victory. Coulthard also added he remained confident about his championship chances. Likewise, Button was disappointed with his fifth-place finish, "It was a bad race for me, if not the worst. The car was working well at the start, but when I tried to pass Jarno I went in a bit late." Trulli refused to criticise Button after the race accepting the view that the Williams driver made a mistake. Frentzen said that although he was happy to finish in the points scoring positions, he would have liked to have a better finish.
The majority of media attention was focused on the overtake by Häkkinen passing Michael Schumacher for the lead on lap 41. After the race ended, Häkkinen went to Michael Schumacher advising him not to repeat a similar manoeuvre. Zonta later admitted that he was unaware of Häkkinen's presence but managed to view Michael Schumacher in his mirrors. Journalist Derick Allsop of The Independent described the possible impact the overtake would have on Häkkinen's career: "Perhaps, he [Mika Häkkinen] will be recognised as a driver worthy of a place in the pantheon of the sport's heroes." Similarly, Ron Dennis, McLaren's team principal, commented, "His overtaking manoeuvre I'm sure will go down as one of the greatest in Formula One history." Häkkinen's overtake was voted by more than 60 Formula One historians as the MasterCard Priceless Moment of the 2000 F1 season in February 2001.
The use of the safety car to start the race received a mixed response by figures within the sport. Coulthard agreed with the FIA's decision to start under safety car conditions, "I know there will be a debate over it but the fact is I was asked beforehand and I said that, based on the previous years we've had here, the safest thing is to have a safety car start. He additionally recognised that the safety car start eliminated the possibility of overtaking but prevented the chance of an major accident. Ralf Schumacher also agreed with the decision to start under safety car conditions. However, ITV commentator and former driver, Martin Brundle felt that the track was not wet enough for the safety car to be used. Similarly, Journalist Nigel Roebuck expressed the view that the amount of time spent under safety car conditions was inadequate and raised the question of abandoning standing starts. FIA race director Charlie Whiting had consulted the opinions of Coulthard, the driver's representative, which was taken into account when starting the race.
As a consequence of the race, Häkkinen remained in the lead of the Drivers' Championship with 74 points. Michael Schumacher, who finished behind Häkkinen, was second on 68 points, seven points ahead of Coulthard and nineteen in front of Barrichello. Ralf Schumacher passed Fisichella for fifth on 20 points. Further back, Frentzen moved ahead of team-mate Trulli and Salo. In the Constructors' Championship, McLaren maintained their lead with 125 points, Ferrari remained in second with 117 points. Williams increased the gap to Benetton to 12 points, with Jordan remaining fifth on 13 points. Despite Häkkinen's increased lead, Michael Schumacher acknowledged that his team lacked speed to compete against McLaren in the season's four remaining races although he remained confident about clinching the world championship.
Standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
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